Luna crept slowly up the cellar steps and lifted the trapdoor, peering around. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that the room was as empty as it had been when she, Neville and Ginny had first made the cellar their hideaway, weeks ago.
It was an old store, tucked away in a dilapidated street that no one ever seemed to come down, which made it as safe as any one spot could be, as far as Luna, Neville and Ginny had been concerned, and no one seemed to have decided that the abandoned store would make a good spot to stay since their last trip upstairs. Nor was there any sign of a fight – the door was closed and the dust as thick upon the floor as ever, except for the wide, blotchy, meandering trail that Ginny had swept between the trapdoor and the front door when they first chose it as their hiding spot, so that no one would be able to tell that people had been there.
But, of course, the fact that there was no sign of a fight was a bad thing. If there had been a fight in the store, they would have been able to find some sort of evidence, but if there hadn't been a fight in here, and Neville really had been kidnapped, then they didn't have any kinds of clues. He could be anywhere. He could be absolutely anywhere, kidnapped by anyone…
But she didn't think that. She pushed the idea right out of her mind, for surely no one but the Death Eaters had any interest in Neville.
"Come up, Ginny," Luna called down, hoisting herself out of the trapdoor and leaning down to help Ginny, who was struggling with their packs. They had just two bags, one that held everything necessary for their comfort and survival – blankets and the like – and the other that held things that they could use in case of some sort of magical emergency – their wands, and Hermione Granger's as well, in case one of theirs got broken and they needed a temporary replacement, and a giant stack of books that Ginny had stolen from Hermione. The bags were enchanted so the insides were larger than the outsides, for the sake of convenience, but they were dreadfully heavy, and even Ginny, who was stronger than Luna by far, had trouble moving with one of them over each shoulder.
"Here," Luna said, taking the one with the books and slipping it easily over her own shoulder, then helping Ginny out into the store. "Well, if Neville was snatched here, then they certainly did it very quietly and without a lot of fuss, which is rather different from what they did to me, so I think that he was probably outside…"
"So at least they don't know where we are," Ginny pointed out. "That's something, at least, wouldn't you say?" Her voice was bitter and a little cold.
"Yes, I think that is rather good news," Luna agreed.
"Of course, it also means that we've got absolutely no idea where they are," Ginny continued. "And that's just bloody fantastic, isn't it? I mean, it's not as though we'll probably die if we just go wandering off to search for him without knowing where he is…"
"Oh, I wouldn't worry so," Luna told her. "I think that we can probably find where Neville went, and what happened… it will just take a little bit of thought…"
"Yeah, well, you're good at that, so you can go outside and walk around and try to work it out, and I'll keep watch, yeah?" Ginny suggested, moving over to the store windows and peeping outside, then urging Luna to follow her out.
"Yes, quite," said Luna, already growing a little in concentration. She walked slowly to the door, then bit on her lip and placed her feet in the footprints near the door that were made with Neville's distinctive, square–toed shoes. They were large and broad and rather ugly, as Ginny had told him time and again, but they did leave good foot marks. Luna walked slowly in the footprints, glad that the ground was rather soft and muddy and at least some had been left.
"He walked out this way," she said, speaking as much to herself as to Ginny, then pausing when the footprints lined up with each other, "then he stopped, probably to look around, I think… and he didn't see anyone, so he kept walking this way…" She followed the line of prints, moving slowly towards the stack of papers that one person had thrown by the ground. They were days old, but there were several that kept being added to the top, enough to give them some idea of how things had changed over time. Hardly current events, but better than nothing. "And he stopped again." She paused once more, then looked thoughtfully up and down the street, then back to the footprints. "He turned around a little it – I think he must have heard a noise… and then… he moved over and he knelt down to get a paper…" She stopped and pointed at the large smear in the muddy ground, and s shred of torn newspaper. "And then they got him."
"Lord…" Ginny cursed softly. "So he thought… God…" She rubbed her eyes a little. "That's bloody terrifying, you know."
"I know," Luna said. "Are you keeping watch well?"
Luna was silent for a moment, then lifted her head, sniffing like a dog, turning her head back and forth and breathing in deep gulps of air. Then she knelt down, sniffing again around the ground.
"What are you doing?" Ginny demanded. "You're going to be impossible to clean up!"
"I don't think you need to worry much about cleaning me up," Luna said absently. She was kneeling in the mud, her head tilted to the side and her eyes closed as her nostrils flared with every breath.
"What are you doing?" repeated Ginny.
"Mm." Luna made a soft, noncommittal little noise, then said, "Whoever got him is friends with Narcissa Malfoy."
"I can smell perfume," Luna explained quietly. "Can't you?"
Ginny sniffed a bit, and there was indeed a faint scent of something that might have been perfume on the air.
"And it smells like the perfume that she wore when I was in Malfoy Manor. It got all over everything. It's very strong... and I'd recognize it anywhere..."
"So there's perfume in the ground," Ginny said with a small shrug. "That doesn't prove much of anything. It could be anyone's perfume, even if it smells of Malfoy Manor. Other people wear perfume, don't they?"
"Yes," Luna conceded. "Other people wear perfume. But not many people have money to spend on it, not since the war, nor are most people willing to leave their houses to go shopping for little things like that…"
"How do you figure that?"
"Have you seen anyone out?"
Ginny fells silent, looking up and down the street. A raven swooped down overhead and circled above them for a moment before taking off in another direction, but there was no other movement, even from the cross-roads that were just visible in the distance. Ginny knew that they were far, far more popular than the street they were on, and yet they looked just as abandoned, with every door she could see locked and bolted and curtains drawn.
"No," she admitted. "I suppose that I haven't."
"That is a way too flimsy theory to risk our lives for," she insisted, almost wanting to slap Luna for her stupid naïveté. "Even if – if – Narcissa Malfoy – or whoever it was at Malfoy Manor that reeked of that perfume so much that you started smelling like it – is the only person in the world with this perfume – and she probably isn't – and even if you're recognizing it – which you might not be – all that proves is that one of the people who was there was near Narcissa at some point. It doesn't prove that Neville's at Malfoy Manor!"
"No," Luna admitted. "No, it doesn't really, I suppose. But it does prove that he was taken by someone who spends plenty of time at Malfoy Manor or near Narcissa Malfoy, which means that he was probably taken by Death Eaters, and the Death Eaters seem to like Malfoy Manor, so it seems most likely that they'd keep him there. And besides, we have to do something, and we have a better chance of getting into Malfoy Manor than any of the other places the Death Eaters control, so we have a better chance of saving Neville by breaking into Malfoy Manor than by doing nothing, don't you think?"
Ginny fell silent and glared at Luna with an expression of someone very clearly trying to work out what the right thing to do was, then finally, she ran her fingers through her mess of red hair, rubbed her forehead, and nodded very slowly.
"Right," she said. "All right. Yeah. Let's go wit that, then. We need to go get Neville, and running off to Malfoy Manor is better than nothing, I suppose. So yeah, tell me your plan to get into Malfoy Manor and save him, and as long as it's not going to get us killed or use wrackspurts as a decoy or something…"
"It's not going to," Luna said with conviction.
"Not what to what? Get us killed or involve wrackspurts?"
Luna hesitated. "Well…" she said slowly, "It's definitely not going to involve wrackspurts…"